Why Is Retrospective Difficult And How to Learn From the Past

Why Is Retrospective Difficult And How to Learn From the Past

It’s not about telling stories why and how it happened in hindsight.“Memory never recaptures reality. Memory reconstructs. All reconstructions change the original.” — Frank Herbert Engineering requires regular diagnostics, retrospectives, postmortems, root cause analysis, etc. We want to reflect on the past and learn something from it.

“Memory never recaptures reality. Memory reconstructs. _**_All reconstructions change the original**.” — Frank Herbert

Engineering requires regular diagnostics, retrospectives, postmortems, root cause analysis, etc. We want to reflect on the past and learn something from it.

But often this doesn’t work. Some teams identify causes and still struggle with the same issues. Some people “never learn”. It seems like we don’t always learn even from the best descriptions and analysis of past events.

Many times I have seen fantastic root cause analysis, and as soon as the next day, the people reverted to the usual, almost instinctive behaviour. Everything was identified, but nothing changed.

Why is this so?

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We don’t like ambiguity, so we make stories with “logical” conclusions. It gives a sense of safety. I love the term the author used: “delusional clarity”.

When doing a retro, there is no way to know for sure if we took everything that happened into account (unknown unknowns). We may even have a preference where we wish a root cause to be (a specific person, team or a system) — and tailor our story to fit that. A mix of facts and assumptions is tough to “debug”.

Sure, some people are a bit more objective than the others, but let’s be honest; objectivity sometimes doesn’t mix well with talk about what went wrong and why (depending on the team).

agile management retrospectives leadership productivity

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